It was so nice to get up and hang around for a little bit.  This morning MW took a walk and then came back to relax with his coffee.  Since we have been on the move so much, he hasn’t been enjoying his percolator like he normally does.  We are slowing the pace now that we are no longer worried about the freezing weather, and are sightseeing today.  It is beautiful, but still a bit windy, and is supposed to get fairly warm today.  I took my time getting up, then showered and washed dishes.  I also spent a little time getting caught up with Mom.

Salt Samples

Just before 9 AM we headed over to Stratica Kansas Underground Salt Museum.  In the 1920s someone was drilling for oil and discovered one of only three salt deposits in the US.  Hundreds of millions of years ago, this area was a sea that became land-locked, then dried up.  As it dried, it left behind this vast salt deposit.  It has been consistently mined since the late 1920s (Carey Salt Mine) and has miles of chambers under this part of Kansas.  Sometime later, they realized the the empty chambers could be used for storage, and now they house movie films, important documents, artifacts, and anything else that needs a stable, temperature controlled environment.  We went down 650′ below the surface to tour part of the area mined in the 1940s and 1950s.  There is a museum and a train ride through larger areas.  We also did the Safari Shuttle ride, which disappeared back into parts of the mine untouched since the 1950s.  Things don’t erode here, and with no wind, there are still footsteps in the dust from miners 70 years ago.  There are also candy wrappers and even part of a sandwich (salt keeps things from rotting) and a banana peel.  It was really cool and much better than I expected it to be.

Huge Underground Rooms

After almost 3 hours of exploring, lunch was next on the menu.  We had a coupon on our ticket stub for the Airport Steak House, so we checked that out.  It was actually in the airport building with the old tower on top and had windows overlooking the field.  In an hour we only saw two small planes, though, so definitely not a busy place.  The food was buffet and was pretty good.

MW Checking Out Statue of Eugene Cernan, the Last Person on the Moon

After lunch we headed out to Yoder, Kansas.  Before we got out of Hutchinson, there was another HUGE flock of birds.  I wasn’t quick enough with the camera, but they stopped at an area right beside the road and there were so many of them that the ground looked black.  The couple from yesterday told us Yoder was a neat Amish community.   After spending time in Shipshewanna, Indiana, I’m not sure others compare, but they did have an Amish bakery and a meat shop.  You know MW had to check out the latter.  He ended up with some beef and elk sausage and olive loaf.

Back in Hutchinson, we headed over to the Cosmosphere, which is a space museum.  In my opinion, anything that starts with an SR-71 Blackbird cannot possibly be bad.  I don’t know who in Hutchinson, Kansas, had the pull to get that much stuff here, but the museum is great.  They claim to have the largest combined collection of US and Russian space artifacts in the world.  They even had the Apollo 13 original command module the they restored!  This is definitely a must see for spaceys!  It was interesting to see so much information about Wernher von Braun.  The defection of his rocket team from Germany may very well have changed the course of human history.  There is a little Jones lore relating to von Braun:  In 1950 he was transferred to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.  MW’s grandfather was an engineer with Thiokol that made solid rocket engines and contracted with Redstone.  (Incidentally, MW’s father also worked at Redstone on the Dragon anti-tank missile.)  It is said that von Braun was an occasional guest at MW’s grandparent’s house.

On the way back to Penelope, we picked up a few supplies.  Dinner tonight was black beans and rice with a little jalapeño cheese bread.

More pics from today:


Near Cassoday, Kansas

Today we awoke to another beautiful day, but it was still cold and windy.  We got on the road around 8:30 AM, heading first through Buhler.  Along the road to Hesston, we saw something that neither of us have ever seen in the wild….pheasant!  One ran across the road in front of us.  He was beautiful!  We continued through Hesston to Newton, then over to Cassoday to catch KS-177, a scenic route.  This route is a LOT of grassland.  Some of it is flat, as is Kansas’ reputation, but most is slightly rolling with gulleys for creeks and areas of trees spread around.  We saw a lot of soybean and sorghum, and more sunflower, which is the state’s nickname…The Sunflower State.

VERY Tall Grass

Along the way we went through a little dot on the map called Bazaar.  There they had the Bazaar Cemetery which we thought would be a great place to be buried.  We also thought that, if they are not having some REALLY cool Halloween activities there, they are missing out.  We saw a really cool courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, then drove through the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  Guess what they have there?  Tall grass.  We stopped at a wayside that showed various types of prairie plants and grasses and had some pretty long-distance views.  The grass was almost as tall as MW!

Calf Roping

As we were coming into Council Grove, there was a ranch with metal cutouts of a cowboy roping a steer that were neat.  It was lunchtime, so we found the Saddlerock Cafe on TripAdvisor.  It was packed, and we were the first in line for a table.  When one became available, it was an 8-top, so we offered to share with the two couples behind us.  What a great group…Charlie and Merry Rayl and Dale and Kay Weland!  They had just come from church and lived in the area, though out on ranches and not in town.  Charlie was a helicopter pilot in the Army in Vietnam and later flew with the Guard, retiring as a Colonel.  He flew several types of choppers, including sky cranes.  He was full of stories and a very neat guy.  He kept his pilot’s license and regaled us with stories of flying around Alaska with one of his buddies.  Dale was also in Vietnam and at one time served as an advisor to the Montagnards.  Kay and Merry were both very nice, too.  The food took FOREVER, but I didn’t mind with such good conversation.

Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

After almost 2 hours we were back on the road.  Charlie had recommended that we go north to Manhattan to the Discovery Center, but we didn’t have time so that is going onto the “next trip” list.  On the way out of town there was another metal cutout in a field, this one of Indians on horseback.  Too cool!  We continued to zigzag on US-56 and up towards Lawrence.

We arrived at Clinton State Park, which is a very large park with a lot of things to do.  We were not very impressed with the overflowing trash dumpsters, and there appeared to be some basic maintenance issues.  There were also a lot of people who appeared to be permanently camped out there, with lots of junk outside of their rigs.  We found a spot that wasn’t right up against anyone and had a view of the lake.

I had to get ready quickly because our friend was already on his way to pick us up for dinner.  Shawn Faulkner went to North Cobb High School in Acworth, Georgia with MW and me, he and MW were both in NJROTC together, and MW was in Shawn’s wedding.  We haven’t seen him in years (me since his brother Noel’s funeral around 1993 and MW since he stopped by Fort Lewis after leaving Whidbey Island around 1990 or so.  We met just outside of the park and headed over to the Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence.  The food was great, but the catching up was better.  Shawn is an instructor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.  He is also an authority on military history and an award-winning author of two books about WWI (The School of Hard Knocks and Pershing’s Crusaders).  After visiting and holding the table for way too long, we headed back to our truck.

Sunset at Clinton State Park

Funny thing:  When we pulled up there was a guy sitting on his tailgate by our truck cooling off after a bike ride.  We made plans for tomorrow and Shawn dropped us and drove off.  The guy then told us that there was a dead bird in Shawn’s grill, and he mimicked a poor little bird splatted up against a wall.  I called Shawn, and sure enough, there was a bird clinging in his car grill.  I told him to take it in, throw it on the counter, and tell Laura he brought home dinner!  LOL  (Really kidding, people!  Don’t call PETA.)

Back at Penelope we watched a little TV and turned in.

More from today: